Shame & Silence

<this post contains graphic details, not suitable for children>

In the wake of all of the allegations and documented cases of sexual abuse, I feel obligated, once again, to share my story. I’ve never been raped, so my story is quite tame in a lot of ways, but the scars are still there and just as deep and everlasting. My goal in sharing these vignettes from my life is to reaffirm that these incidents are pervasive and happen not just in Hollywood, but in your neighborhood, possibly right down the street.

It’s also important to know that this post only covers physical sexual abuse. The number of times I have been verbally abused is too numerous to recount – whether at school, at work or places in between.

So, here are my stories . . . <deep breath>

Incident #1

At 12 years old
At 12 years old

By the age of 11, I was babysitting for a number of families in my neighborhood. Some families had even scheduled me on a standing basis on the weekends during the school year, and during the days on holiday breaks and summers. The T family was a regular customer and I had babysat for them and their three children numerous times. The pattern was well-established. I would arrive in time to feed the children dinner, play with them for a bit and then put them to bed, as the parents would leave for a child-free evening of dinner and whatever else they had planned. One particular night stands out. The parents were going to a party in the neighborhood and would be close by. I thought nothing of it.

Shortly after the children were in bed, as I was watching TV, I heard the door unlock. It was far too early for the couple to be home, so I carefully made my way toward the door. I was relieved when I saw the father coming through the door. I thought, “Whew, it’s just Mr. T.” He came in and said that he had forgotten something and went upstairs to get whatever that something was. When he reappeared at the bottom of steps, I was there to walk to the door with him so I could lock up.

It was all very normal, though in retrospect, there was nothing in his hands and whatever he came home for was either in his pocket or . . .? As we walked to the door, he leaned down and said, “How about a kiss?” I knew this man, trusted and respected him. But what did he mean exactly? Not knowing what to do and assuming this was a harmless gesture (much like my Dad would kiss my best friend, Marie, in a paternal, non-creepy way) I gave him a quick peck on the cheek and smelled the alcohol on his breath. He lunged forward, held me tight and forced his tongue down my throat. My 4 foot 9, 70-pound frame finally slipped from his grip and I said, as firmly as I could muster, that he needed to leave. He looked at me with amusement, as I was telling him to leave his own home. He chuckled and left.

I was fortunate that my parents were home that night. After I locked the door (why, I’m not sure I know because the threat had a key), I called them, shared what happened and they came over immediately.

When the couple arrived home, they were greeted not by me, but by my father. My mother had taken me home, while my father finished my babysitting duties. I wasn’t there to see, but I suspect some knowing glances passed between my father and Mr. T, as my father explained that I had gotten sick during the evening.

But we never said a word about what actually happened. We never told his wife. And I never babysat there again. Thinking back, I probably put another babysitter in harm’s way, but we just didn’t think about things like that back then. We removed the threat and moved on with our lives.

Incident #2

At the awkward age of 13, I had an active social life which mainly rested on the schedule of bar and bat mitzvahs of my fellow Hebrew school students. And while there were only about 25 of us, it made for a busy season of services and parties. It’s important to know that I saw these children 3-4x a week: 2x at Hebrew school, at least 1x at their bar or bat mitzvah service and then at the ensuing Saturday night party. With rare exception, it was the same kids at these parties, week in and week out. And even though it was a small group, it was large enough to have cliques.

Being scrawny with glasses and needing braces, I was not “cool” even at Hebrew school. I had friends and enjoyed the camaraderie, but was not a part of the “in crowd.” But it was customary to invite everyone in your grade to your party, so everyone attended.

J.K. was rather new to our community and as an outsider to some extent, seemed a bit mysterious and interesting to the rest of us who had known each other for years. His party was held in his basement with the usual complement of snack food, loud rock music and parents and out-of-town relatives upstairs. My parents – who knew the family – dropped me off and would come back for me later.

Toward the middle of the evening, J.K. started paying attention to me. I was surprised but mostly flattered. He was the new kid and he was hanging out with me. Sometime later, he invited me into his bedroom to look at something (etchings? I can’t remember what exactly), which was only steps away from the festivities. Once inside, he closed the door, turned off the lights, pushed me onto his bed and put his tongue in my mouth. My second French kiss – if you can call it that – only slightly less disgusting as this was a boy my own age, so that made it ok(?). At first, I thought, hmm, this is what a kiss is? I wasn’t impressed. But mid-thought, he stopped and I moved to get off the bed. That’s when he pushed me down again, pinning me to the bed and forcing his penis into my mouth. I choked, cried and tried to extricate myself.

He ejaculated, got up, zipped his pants and walked out of the room.

I was left there, stunned, hurt and a mess, both physically and emotionally. And I had to walk out and face my friends.

So what do you think I did? Nothing. Absolutely, nothing. I tried to make myself presentable – thank goodness for the mirror in his bedroom – and walked out like nothing had happened and stayed at the party until the end.

My parents picked me up and when asked, I told them it had been a nice party. And I saw all of those kids again numerous times, including J.K., but nothing was ever said. No apology ever attempted. Like it never even happened.

This is the first time I’ve told this story – to anyone. And I can still see my younger self going into that room. The voice inside my head is yelling, “Stop! Don’t go!” But it’s too late and I relive that moment like it was yesterday.

Incident #3

Things were pretty uneventful for the next several years. Fortunately, I made good choices when it came to high school boyfriends. They were kind, tender and would never force themselves on someone.

However, college was a whole new ballgame. I’ve shared in a previous blog post that my first Friday night at college, my sophomore roommate offered to take me with her to a frat party. The events that evening affected my entire college career. After that first night, I never left my dorm alone. In fact, I never went anywhere alone for the remaining 4 years I was there.

The Point

My experiences didn’t involve the highly successful, the rich or the famous. I was assaulted by average guys, leading average lives. I don’t know why they did what they did.

What I do know is:

I’m not alone.

What happened to me doesn’t and will never define me.

This has got to stop and the more voices that speak out, the better off we all are.

Please share your story, in whatever way you are comfortable doing so. You are not alone.

8 thoughts on “Shame & Silence

  1. Sally, thank you for telling this experience. I am always fearful for my daughters and wonder if they’ve had to experience anything so horrible. To think these morons prevented you from enjoying your childhood and damaged your ability to trust men is reprehensible. I hope these and other stories empower more women to confront and expose these disgusting predators.

      1. Sorry for your experiences
        hope sharing and reliving these dark times will confirm to you. The Sally that we are blessed to know is beautiful in and out, loving caring and possesses all
        the qualities that makes you a Woman of Substance.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing, sally. This was very difficult to read, but so important. I’m so sorry these things happened to you, and are do pervasive in society in general. I pray that we, men, learn to do better and be better. For all our sakes. Thank you again, SO much, for sharing.

    1. Thanks, Rabbi Jeremy. I appreciate your kind words and agree that we need to do better for all of our sakes.

  3. Words cannot express the pain that I feel for you at this moment. My admiration of your strength and vision has soared to higher heights upon this sad but true to life testimony. Thank you for having the courage to share. I am confident that this post will inspire others to tell their stories as well. Peace & blessings to you my friend…Always & forever

  4. Sally… because you were so brave about telling your story, I decided I will now share mine with you.

    As a child I was always “different”. Most considered me a “tomboy” or just “one of the guys”. I played every sport I could. I never backed down from anyone. No boy was too big for me to tackle or outrun. My friends argued which team I would be on because they were always so sure with me on their team, they’d win. My mom was girly, liked girly things. She wore dresses, high heels, and makeup. My dad was what I considered a real man… he didn’t run the streets, he treated my mother with class and respect. He worked and provided for our small family (I was an only child too) and my mother stayed home to raise me and take care of the home. My dad played sports growing up and he was good… so I always felt it necessary to compete and win his approval. He was always telling me that girls would never amount in sports what men would, that I would never be as good as the boys in my neighborhood or school. My dad wanted me to be prim and proper, wear dresses and play with baby dolls. That was never who I was. I wanted to play with Tonka trucks, wear jeans, and get dirty. Because I was considered such a “tomboy” I hung out with all the boys in the neighborhood. When I was around 8 one of the boys who was much older than me (around 13) started taking me for walks in the woods. He would ride me on his bike and we’d work on building secret forts. At some point things started to take a turn. He started showing me dirty magazines and having secret “talks” with me. One day he decided that he wanted to be more than my friend. It started out what He told me was normal. He would kiss me and hug me. It made me uncomfortable but I thought it was what I was suposed to do. He told me it was “normal” and “ok”. Then one day everything changed more. He began touching me inappropriately until the day came that he made me have sex with him. I was 9yrs old… hadn’t even begun to live my life yet. I was scared and felt very alone. Again… he told me this was normal and it was “ok” but it was “our secret”. Deep down I knew something wasn’t right but as time went on I didn’t know how to tell anyone. I felt dirty and ashamed. I thought I had done something wrong and that my parents would be mad and not love me the same. This went on for a couple of years until I was able to break away from it all. Then when i was 12/13 I was visiting my grandparents. All the adults were having “adult time” I went to the den to go to bed (by myself) I guess after an hour I woke up to my moms drunk brother with his hands in my shorts. I was so scared!
    I’ve held these things in my whole life. It wasn’t until this year that I was even able to say the words “I was molested”. There have been so many things I have been through, that I went through as a child and teenager. As an adult I’ve gone through things that I never imagined I would and I’ve seen things I never thought I’d see/witness. I was diagnosed with severe PTSD this year when all this started coming to surface. I never told my parents… I stayed ashamed my whole life. I think kids are afraid to come forward… afraid of the consequences, afraid of what someone will think of them. Peple often don’t believe them or tell them it’s their fault. It’s never a child’s “fault”! I had something very important taken from me… something I was never able to get back. It led me to a lot of poor decisions growing up and even as an adult.
    Thank you for sharing your story as it helped me be a little more brave too. I’ve been told I need to talk about this so I can heal and move forward. I didn’t know how to talk about it… I didn’t want to talk about it. I shared this with you because I want you to know you did nothing wrong… there was nothing wrong with you. What happened to you was horrible and sad! What happens to so many kids today is horrible! I’m broken inside and I don’t know if I’ll ever be totally “ok” but I do know it wasn’t my fault. I just wish I had been strong enough to tell someone. I encourage all paents to talk to your children and pay attention… make sure they know they can tell you anything, ANYTHING!
    Thank you for allowing me to share my story with you. Maybe our stories will help save some young girl. Maybe we are giving some parents the courage to listen and look for any signs.
    Sally, you are brave and you are beautiful, and I’m thankful to call you my friend. I love you and I’m always here.


    1. Karen – Thanks for sharing your story. Clearly, your journey has been horrific and for that I’m sorry. But I’m proud of the person you have become and that you are my friend. We will carry these scars forever, but also the support that comes with sharing it with one another. <3

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